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Government employees have low awareness of neurodiversity in the workplace, according to new Eagle Hill Consulting research

For Neurodiversity Week, Eagle Hill provides government officials with practical strategies to unleash the potential of neurodivergent employees

Arlington, Va., March 20, 2024 – Sixty-one percent of government employees either said they are unfamiliar with the term neurodiversity or don’t know its meaning, according to new research from Eagle Hill Consulting. While 85 percent of government employees say they would hire, or have hired, a neurodivergent employee, few are trained on working with or managing neurodivergent workers.

These findings are detailed in a new report, Neurodiversity in government: A powerful answer to government’s workforce crisis lies in thinking outside the box.

“With about 15 to 20 percent of the population identifying as neurodiverse, some government agencies are actively pursuing neurodivergent employees through pilot programs and other hiring initiatives,” says Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill Consulting’s president and chief executive officer. “This is a smart move given the workforce shortages facing agencies and because neurodivergent employees can add tremendous value to an organization. Neurodivergent workers often have exceptional talents when it comes to creative problem solving, attention to detail, math and data analytics skills, reliability, and perseverance.”

“But neurodivergent employees can face many big hurdles in the workplace – stigmas that create an uncomfortable work environment, social and communication challenges, sensory sensitivities that make a typical workplace overwhelming, or executive functioning struggles that can hinder their organization, time management, and productivity,” Jezior said.

The new Eagle Hill research finds that when evaluating employee performance, most consider the ability to communicate clearly (53 percent) and stay organized (49 percent), as important evaluation criteria, skills that often are difficult for neurodivergent employees. The research also finds that most government employees (73 percent) indicate that they aren’t aware of promotions of neurodivergent workers, which isn’t surprising because performance metrics for neurotypical employees may not be aligned with the skills of neurodiverse workers.

Jezior added, “It’s encouraging to see that government employees are more cognizant of neurodiversity as compared to private sector workers. But our research finds there is much work to be done to raise awareness in the workplace about neurodivergent employees and to implement training and accommodations that will enable all employees to thrive. If leaders aren’t trained on how to effectively manage neurodivergent workers and there isn’t a culture that values their skills, agencies can’t fully tap into the unique strengths of these sharp employees.”

“For example, one action agencies can take is to train and equip staff on how to successfully manage and support neurodivergent employees. Creating mentorship and professional development opportunities for neurodivergent employees helps these employees reach their full potential. Thoughtful strategies targeted at the these out-of-the-box thinkers is a win for employees, managers, and the agency mission,” Jezior said.

To see Eagle Hill’s recommendations for how to improve the workplace environment for all, read the guideHow to embrace neurodiversity in the workplace: 7 strategies for unleashing the potential of neurodivergent employees.

In a new national poll of government employees, Eagle Hill found:

  • Sixty percent of government employees say training in sensitivity to social differences would be valuable, and 62 percent indicated they would be interested in training on managing neurodivergent employees. Yet, only 24 percent say that training is offered at their workplace.
  • Only 28 percent of government employees say there have been formal conversations about neurodiversity in their organization, and only 26 percent can affirm that neurodiversity is part of their corporate diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
  • Some 59 percent of government employees report that their employer does not seek out advice and input from neurodivergent employees when designing office spaces, teams, and project management systems.

These findings are from the Eagle Hill Consulting Neurodiversity in Government Survey conducted by Ipsos from January 11-18, 2024. The survey included 1,261 respondents from a random sample of full and part-time adult employees across the United States. The survey also included an augment to collect more interviews from those who work for local, state, or the federal government. The augment included 309 interviews in addition to 193 respondents from the standard survey who work for the government. Respondents were polled on the topic of neurodiversity in the workplace.

The term neurodiversity gives a framework for recognizing that some individuals’ brain function and behavioral traits are differences, not deficiencies. Neurodiversity can encompass a number of differences including autism spectrum conditions, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, among others. As a group, the neurodiverse often experience high rates of un- or under-employment, as high as 80 percent.

Eagle Hill Consulting LLC is a woman-owned business that provides unconventional management consulting services in the areas of Strategy, Performance, Talent, and Change. The company’s expertise in delivering innovative solutions to unique challenges spans across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, from financial services to healthcare to media & entertainment. Eagle Hill has offices in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Boston, MA and Seattle, WA. More information is available at www.eaglehillconsulting.com.

Media Contact: Susan Nealon | 703.229.8600 | snealon@eaglehillconsulting.com | @WeAreEagleHill